Apr 6, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins (11) talks with starting pitcher A.J. Burnett (34) during the first inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Burnett struggles, Howard can't catch a break in 8-3 loss to Cubs

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After failing to complete a series win in their first series of the year against the Texas Rangers, the Phillies entered Sunday afternoon’s showdown with the Chicago Cubs, looking to complete a series sweep.

Despite going six innings and only allowing one run in his Phillies debut, A.J. Burnett entered Sunday’s game looking for his first-win in a Phillies uniform. Instead of that happening, Burnett struggled, and was out-pitched by Carlos Villanueva, who went for the Cubs.

After Ryan Howard just missed out on a three-run homerun in the top half of the first (this would go on to be a theme for the day), the Cubs put the Phillies in a hole in the home half of the inning.

Amidst four first-inning walks, the Cubs got RBIs from Ryan Kalish, Nate Schierholtz, Starlin Castro, and Ryan Sweeney to take an early 4-0 lead.

Had the Phillies caught a break in the first inning on Howard’s deep drive to center, or his fly-ball to the left-center field warning track in the third-inning, that lead might not have been so insurmountable. There was also the case in the top of the fifth where after Chase Utley‘s groundout RBI didn’t have conclusive evidence to be overturned to a single, Ryan Howard scorched a ball straight into the shift, that Darwin Barney caught in mid-air, ending the inning. In short, the Phillies hit the ball pretty well today, that just didn’t catch any breaks. That at least is something to hand your hat on, especially on a team that wasn’t expected to hit to well.

After he narrowly avoided allowing a grandslam to end the fifth inning, Ryne Sandberg made the questionable decision to leave A.J. Burnett in the game for the sixth inning. While it wasn’t all his own doing, that proved to be a lethal decision for  the Phillies chances of winning the game.

The inning turned after Burnett got an easy out to start the inning, when Ryan Sweeney hit a tailing ball at noted fielding specialist Ben Revere, who instead of catching the ball, dropped it, and turned what in the worse case scenario should have been a single, into a triple.

All the Cubs did to take advantage of that, was to get another runner on base, before getting an RBI from Emilio Bonifacio, a two-run double from Kalish, and an RBI from Anthony Rizzo. The Cubs entered the inning with a 3-1 lead that they were barley clinging on to, but left the inning having put the game virtually out of reach, with an 8-1 lead.

The closest that the Phillies got to making a comeback bid came in the ninth, when Jose Veras walked four runners, and allowed a run on a fielder’s choice from Jimmy Rollins. After Veras loaded up the bases, the Cubs brought in their closer Pedro Strop. While Strop himself didn’t display the greatest control (he allowed Ben Revere to score on a wild-pitch), he closed out the game when he got Ryan Howard to drive a ball to deep left, which was put away by Ryan Kalish.

While Howard didn’t have a hit in five at-bats today, he hit the ball on the nose four times in the game. What was even more encouraging, was that two of those four times, he drove the ball to the opposite field. Throughout Howard’s career, when he drives the ball to the opposite field, he tends to hit his best. Chase Utley is also scorching six games into the season as well.

Strangely enough, the Phillies’ bats seem to be somewhat hot through through the first six games of the season. The problem? The Phillies will now welcome in a Milwaukee Brewers team that is fresh off of sweeping the World Champion Boston Red Sox, and they won’t have  to see Cliff Lee or A.J. Burnett on the mound in the series.

If you didn’t catch it on the broadcast, instead of tomorrow being the home opener for the Phils, the game has been moved to Tuesday due to the expectation of bad weather. Cancelling the game this early may seem strange, but considering the Phillies already had Tuesday off, moving the home-opener to a day where the weather will be nice, should make the game more aesthetically pleasing. I guess that matters.

Anyways, the Phillies will open up a three-game set with the Brewers Tuesday afternoon at 4:05 P.M., with Kyle Kendrick on the mound and the game airing on NBC 10.

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Tags: Philadelphia Phillies

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